Although President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach kept reiterating that the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead in 2021 when he visited Japan recently, it’s hard to see how Japan will deliver on the promise it made when it won the Olympics bid, of omotenashi (wholehearted hospitality), if coronavirus waves keep surging.
We made a 3 minute video for Japan Intercultural Consulting unpicking what omotenashi actually means. The reality looks more like visitors being made to undergo regular temperature checks, policed for mask wearing and cheering too loudly and being regularly advised what areas to avoid due to overcrowding or too much particle dispersal.
It’ll feel like you never got past the jumpy guys yelling at you about filling in your forms and where to stand at the immigration queue in Narita Airport. Omotenashi and going the extra mile to please only really works when processes and expectations are predictable in the first place.
As this article in Wired points out, 70% of Japanese think the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed according to a recent poll, and it may also be that most of us have become too jumpy about being in a crowd to want to attend such an event anyway. It may come down to whether a reliable vaccine has become widespread enough for everyone to regain confidence before hosts can revert to old traditions of excellent Japanese customer service.
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